A UN Women News Feature
NEW YORK (IDN | UN Women) – On April 25, 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, followed by another powerful 7.3-magnitude quake on May 12. In the ongoing response to the earthquakes in Nepal, UN Women has worked side-by-side with government, UN OCHA and other UN agencies, and women’s group to highlight the distinct needs of women and girls, including protection and resilience, and to promote their role as meaningful participants in eventual recovery, reconstruction and development. As we approach the one-year mark since the earthquakes, UN Women spotlight on Nepali women and girls, their stories and their solutions.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, UN Women through its established partnerships with women’s groups, established five multi-purpose women’s centres, by women’s groups in collaboration with local government, and three information centres. UN Women targeted recognized groups of vulnerable women, including widows, disabled women, female household heads, Dalit women, and women with other vulnerabilities, reaching approximately 42,703 affected women so far.
Through the five multi-purpose centres in Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot, Gorkha and Kathmandu districts, women were offered a range of services, including psychosocial counselling and trauma assistance (1,532 women reached), awareness-raising and information dissemination, including through messages on local radio and social mobilizers deployed in the community (with 13,966 women reached directly) on relief and recovery related activities, and referral services, such as to legal organizations to support women and girls who have experienced violence (with 618 women reached).
There has been an increase in incidents of violence against women survivors since the earthquake. The multi-purpose centres are safe spaces equipped with counsellors who among other things can also help survivors cope and receive support and other services.
UN Women also distributed non-food items in seven districts (Kathmandu, Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Kavre, Nuwakot, Bhaktapur and Dhading), which included 6,513 dignity kits, 8,094 solar lanterns, 19,182 sanitary napkins and 2,500 radio sets.
Post-earthquake, the number of migrant workers, including women, seeking to leave Nepal has been on the rise and UN Women and partners have intensified awareness programmes and economic empowerment efforts to stem the tide of women migrant workers in the affected districts.
UN Women has also called for increased participation and leadership of women and girls in the assessment, planning and implementation of the humanitarian response, offering leadership training to strengthen women’s ability to take part.
Focusing on development
As the humanitarian response shifts to focus more on development, the multi-purpose women’s centres in the five districts in the second phase of the programme will aim to ensure that the local disaster preparedness and response plan respond to the needs of women and girls and strengthen their capacity to prevent, prepare for, and recover from natural hazards.
This phase of the response will also support a grass-roots women’s network for community resilience and disaster risk reduction. Also via these centres, UN Women will focus on ensuring that networks of excluded women’s in the three worst-affected districts have access to local budgets, benefit from employment opportunities and get engaged in cash-for-work programmes and livelihoods skills-enhancement in safe and supportive locations.
Gender-sensitive humanitarian planning and budgeting
Women – who represent 51 per cent of the population of Nepal – have been the single-highest adversely affected group. The 14 most affected districts include about 327,000 female-headed households (26.5 per cent of all households), 40,000 women and girls with disabilities, and over 163,000 women over the age of 65. More women and girls died than men and boys, partly because of gendered roles that disproportionately assign indoor chores to women and male migration out of the country.
Since the very outset, UN Women has been working to ensure that the humanitarian response to the earthquakes in Nepal takes the specific needs of women into account. With the National Planning Commission and Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, UN Women’s technical assistance led to an engendered Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), with a dedicated Gender Equality and Social Inclusion chapter, ensuring sectoral and recovery strategies took women’s needs into account. UN Women is also contributing to the development of the Gender Empowerment and Social Inclusion section within the Post-Disaster Recovery Framework under the leadership of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
With UN Women’s advocacy, the commitment to apply the Government’s Gender-Responsive Budgeting principles to all recovery and reconstruction programmes was also included in the PDNA and the Ministry of Finance requested all ministries adopt these principles in their reconstruction plans. UN Women has acted as a sector lead development partner to this end, working with the Ministry, UN and civil society partners.
The UN Women and UN OCHA partnership has been key to ensuring that gender equality and gender mainstreaming are not neglected in humanitarian action in Nepal. Both organizations co-chaired the Humanitarian Response Inter-Cluster Gender Working Group, which continues to provide recommendations, analysis and messaging for advocacy use by the Humanitarian Country Team and Inter-Cluster Coordination, including in the humanitarian bulletins and key sectoral messages.
UN Women works closely with women’s groups, who helped assemble and distribute the dignity kits and other non-food items through the multi-purpose women’s centres, in close coordination with the national Department of Women and Children in Kathmandu and the district-level Women and Children Office. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, UN Women’s NGO partner organizations also played a key role in searching the 14 most-affected districts to identify the most vulnerable women who were most in need of urgent help. They helped provide assistance, distributing urgently needed aid such as dignity kits, solar lamps, radio sets.
Over the coming year, UN Women will continue to work closely with government and development partners to support some of the most vulnerable groups of women to promote their political and economic engagement and to build their resilience.
Note: This feature first appeared as photo essay on UN Women website on April 20, 2016. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 April 2016]
IDN, the flagship of International Press Syndicate, is media partner for the UN Women’s Step it Up for Gender Equality campaign.
Photo: “This is where our house used to be,” says Bishnu Maya. Credit: UN Women/N. Shrestha